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The Fight Over Sugar Beets

Pete Springer/OPB

Earlier this month, a federal judge in San Fransisco ruled that farmers can grow genetically modified sugar beets, at least for the near future. Environmentalists have tried to stop the growth of these beets, saying that their seeds would contaminate un-modified sugar beets and related species, like swiss chard.

But 95 percent of all sugar beets grown here are modified — accounting for half of the nation’s sugar supply — and an immediate ban would cause 1.5 billion dollars in losses. These GMO (genetically modified organism) beets were created to resist a particular herbicide, and were patented by Monsanto.

The Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice and several other groups and organic farmers brought the suit against GMO sugar beets. They sued the USDA over its approval of the new plant, and Monsanto over its development and distribution. And the legal challenges aren’t over yet; it’s possible that a ban on GMO sugar beets might come down the road.

But even if a ban on GMO sugar beets takes effect, GMOs might be here to stay. GMO corn, soy, cotton, papaya, alfalfa, squash, and canola are grown all over the country. Portland Monthly recently estimated that 70 percent of all products on supermarket shelves throughout the nation contain some genetically modified ingredients.

How do you feel about GMOs — grown on your land, or served at your kitchen table?


Professor Steven Strauss: University Distinguished Professor, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University. GMO tree expert.
Wes Sander: Reporter at Capital Press
William Freese: Science Policy Analyst with the Center for Food Safety

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